Research Shows Musk Ducks Can Mimic Human Speech

Research Shows Musk Ducks Can Mimic Human Speech

( – Anyone who has watched one of Walt Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean blockbusters is familiar with the concept of talking parrots. Likewise, famous British author and poet Edgar Allan Poe memorialized a speaking bird in his epic poem The Raven. However, the recent rediscovery of a 35-year-old recording indicates an unlikely bird species is capable of using “fowl” language of a human nature.

On September 6, Professor Carel ten Cate, an animal behavior specialist at the Netherlands’ Leiden University, published a study about vocal imitations and learning in Australian musk ducks (Biziura lobata). He had been studying the origins and development of vocal learning among birds when he came across a recording of a musk duck named Ripper.

Ripper repeats, “you bl**dy foo,” in one recorded clip. Dr. ten Cate says Ripper probably intended to say “fool” or “food.” “It’s in the ear of the beholder,” he explained with a grin. Another clip demonstrated Ripper mimicking the sound of his aviary door slamming shut.

Until now, talking birds typically only included songbirds, parrots, and hummingbirds. However, Professor ten Cate’s research adds ducks to the list.

It remains unclear how Ripper learned the phrase, but ten Cates’ reports theorized it probably came from a caretaker.

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